Orioles advance, 5-1 over 2-time AL champion Texas
Buck Showalter thrust his arm into the air, then stood back and
savored watching his surprising Baltimore Orioles celebrate on the
Champagne showers followed in the clubhouse after hugs from
their manager following a 5-1 victory over the two-time defending
American League champion Texas Rangers in the league’s first
win-or-go-home wild-card playoff Friday night.
”One of our biggest regrets of the year would have been if our
guys couldn’t have a moment after the game like that,” Showalter
said. ”We came so close a couple times. We got in the playoffs and
didn’t really get to.”
The Orioles were on a team flight from Baltimore to Tampa Bay
last Sunday night when their first playoff berth in 15 years was
clinched. Now they get to go home for another shot to overtake the
New York Yankees, with a best-of-five division series that starts
Sunday at Camden Yards.
For Texas, which twice came within a strike of its first World
Series title last October, there is nothing to celebrate. The
Rangers didn’t win a postseason game this time, even with Yu
Darvish on the mound at home.
They lost nine of their last 13 games in the regular season,
which cost them their AL West crown on the final day after being
swept by Oakland and put them in an unexpected elimination game –
especially after leading the division for a majors-best 178
”To be honest with you, I never thought anything like this
would happen,” manager Ron Washington said. ”I don’t get
pessimistic, I always stay optimistic, and when things like this
happen, I am shocked. And right now, I’m shocked.”
Texas is starting its longest offseason in three years, while
Joe Saunders and the Orioles keep playing. Baltimore split 18 games
this season with the East champion Yankees, the AL’s top seed.
Saunders, acquired by Baltimore from Arizona in late August, had
lost all six of his previous starts with a 9.38 ERA at Rangers
Ballpark. And the Orioles bullpen was already scrambling after
Saunders, who hadn’t walked anybody his previous three starts,
started the game by walking Ian Kinsler and giving up a single to
But Saunders pitched effectively into the sixth. He also
benefited from three double-play grounders, including Josh
Hamilton’s in the first that sent Kinsler home with the only Texas
”Just an awesome experience. It means everything,” Saunders
said. ”It’s special to prove people wrong. I’ve been telling
people all along that I’ve pitched better than my numbers here. …
I love being the underdog. To knock off the defending two-time
champs from the past couple of years is pretty amazing.”
Hamilton wound up getting booed in what might have been his last
home game in a Rangers uniform.
The slugger was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, both on three
pitches. He swung at the first pitch his other at-bats – including
the double play in the first and a comebacker to start the sixth.
He struck out with a runner at second base to end the eighth, when
it was still a 3-1 game.
The former AL MVP and batting champion is eligible for free
agency, and the Rangers might not be willing to pay the big money
likely necessary to keep him.
”I hadn’t thought about it too much. I’m going to go home,
spend some time with the family and figure out what’s going on,”
Hamilton said. ”I’d love to stay here. They understand it and know
that. … Even if you send me off with boos, I still love
Four pitches into the game, the Orioles led against Darvish, who
struck out seven while allowing three runs (two earned) in 6 2-3
Nate McLouth grounded Darvish’s first pitch toward first baseman
Michael Young. The longest-tenured Rangers player got charged with
an error when he tried to backhand the ball, which ricocheted off
the heel of his glove and away from him.
McLouth stole second base on the third pitch. J.J. Hardy then
drove him in by grounding a hard single up the middle.
The O’s had consecutive singles to start the sixth before Adam
Jones’ sacrifice fly made it 2-1. McLouth added an RBI single in
the seventh and had a sac fly in the ninth, when the Orioles scored
twice off Rangers closer Joe Nathan.
Jim Johnson, who set an Orioles record with 51 saves, allowed a
walk and two hits in the ninth, including a two-out pinch single by
19-year-old Jurickson Profar that loaded the bases, before David
Murphy’s season-ending flyball caught by McLouth in left field.
”Me and my teammates and the Rangers’ fans, I don’t think we
all thought that it would end this early,” Darvish said through a
translator. ”I mean, right now, no. I don’t even know what I’m
supposed to do tomorrow.”
Darvish won 16 games in his rookie season in the majors, after
the Rangers committed more than $107 million last winter to acquire
Japan’s best pitcher. The 26-year-old right-hander was 8-2 with a
1.38 ERA in 11 postseason starts in Japan the past six seasons.
Showalter managed in Texas for four years before being fired and
replaced by Washington after the 2006 season. Darren O’Day, the
sidewinder who pitched two scoreless innings in relief of Saunders,
is one of seven former Rangers players now with Baltimore – and
advancing in the playoffs.
”I have a lot of respect for the Texas Rangers and what they’ve
done these past few years and the opportunity they gave me,” said
O’Day. ”It was more satisfying just to make the playoffs with this
group of guys. People thought we’d be making tee times right